Alaina Coates is set to play her first WNBA game this year after missing her entire rookie season with an ankle injury.
By Matt Hallett
All of last season I was hoping Alaina Coates would come back from her ankle injury. Unfortunately, Coates missed the entire of last season meaning that she is my most eagerly anticipated debut of the upcoming WNBA season. I am awaiting it more intently than A'ja Wilson's debut.
A bit of background, Coates is a 6'4" center out of the University of South Carolina. In the four years Coates played a total of 113 games averaging 23.5 minutes, 12.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. In her final two years, Coates averaged a double double in rebounds and points.
These are quality numbers and point to a quality player who will succeed in the WNBA. The biggest problem is players need to fit systems and college success does not always translate to WNBA success.
In saying this, as the Chicago Sky have signed her to a contract, her place in their systems needs to be examined.
The Sky already have a high quality center in their starting line-up in the form of Stefanie Dolson. Last season Dolson played so well, she was given her first All-Star nod. When the Sky re-signed Dolson earlier in the free agency period, I listed some of her benefits. One of the main ones is her 3-point shot.
However, for the Sky to be successful they need to have a presence at power forward who can rebound and mix it with true centers if Dolson is shooting from range. last season they had Jessica Breland who will not be with the Sky this season as she has signed with the Atlanta Dream.
This season the Sky are going to pair Dolson with a younger player in the frontcourt and I see no reason it could not be Coates. If Coates starts alongside Dolson then they can utilize Dolson's range of shot to space the floor.
Coates feels more at home closer to the basket and with her college shotting percent for her four years being 62.2 percent I can see no reason the Sky will not use her. Courtney Vandersloot will enjoy passing to someone who makes more than half her shots most nights.
Coates is also a more than adequate rim-protector. She will not be at Breland's level for a few seasons but her 1.6 blocks per game should translate to about 1.0 per game in the WNBA.
If the Sky choose to bring Coates off the bench to start her WNBA career, she should also flourish in that role. Her shooting close to the rim would make her an ideal candidate to run the second unit offense through.
If the Sky choose to go down this path, don't be surprised to see Coates and Dolson playing together. This will provide match-up headaches for most teams in the league.